As a student finishing my freshman year, the beginning of my college experience has been amazing, but also very stressful.. When I arrived at Penn, I didn’t really know what to expect and was very nervous about balancing school, making new friends and joining extracurricular activities.
Throughout this year, I have learned a lot about myself and about how to navigate the exciting, but very scary transition between high school and college. Here are a few tips on how to navigate through the beginning of your freshman year and create a smooth transition.
Be outgoing and friendly to everyone you encounter.
Coming into college, my biggest worry was about finding my people and making friends like the ones I had in high school. I was scared that I would really struggle to meet people that I really enjoyed being around and felt like I could be myself with. What I learned through the beginning of freshman year is that everyone is really looking to make friends and meet new people, so you should always be nice to everyone you meet. You will find people you really enjoy and feel comfortable with eventually, so it is just about persevering, being outgoing and introducing yourself to new people every day. This was scary at first, but as I became more comfortable at Penn, the people I would introduce myself to became people that I am still friends with and that I have learned so much from. I even met some of my best friends in classes that I would have never expected! It is all about being friendly and outgoing!
Understand that even if it doesn’t seem like it, everyone else is going through the same struggles and worries that you are.
The aspect of college that I struggled with the most at the beginning of school was looking at other people’s social media posts, where it seemed like everyone already had their friend groups and were set for all four years of college. What I quickly realized was that social media is a highlight reel and everyone else was really struggling the same way that I was.. You have to try to ignore how perfect and set everyone’s social lives seem and try to do your best to make more friends and meet people you really enjoy. I can promise you that everyone is looking to meet new people and that you should not be stressed about being in a friend group right away, because most people are not in friend groups right away, even though it might seem like they are.
Pick 1 or 2 clubs that you are interested in, rather than stressing yourself out being in several clubs that you don’t enjoy.
Penn is a very pre professional and intense environment. While this can be very motivating, it stressed me out A LOT at the beginning of school. People were applying for upwards of ten clubs and interviewing for so many different things. I was extremely stressed out and did not feel like I was doing enough to become actively involved in school life and eventually get a job after I graduate. I then came to the realization that it is just freshman year and I should try to get involved in clubs that I genuinely enjoy and will actively participate in and learn from, rather than stressing myself out with ten clubs that I don’t truly enjoy. Even if you join two clubs that you don’t really enjoy, there are seven more semesters of Penn to get involved in clubs and activities that will help you for your future. Focus on your mental health and doing things that you will genuinely enjoy rather than trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing!
Finally, it seemed like everyone else had their academic, extracurricular and social lives together and were set for college. This is definitely not true. You have to realize that you are just a freshman and college is supposed to be for exploring and figuring out your life, rather than being supposed to have it already figured out when you get there. Do things you enjoy and take classes that you are genuinely interested in so you can figure out your life and what you want to do. It is okay to feel like a mess!
I hope these tips help you navigate through the beginning of your college experience. I know it is extremely stressful at the beginning and feels like the world has been turned upside down, but I promise you will figure it out and be happy in the end.